Drobo vs TeraStation

I have a Drobo in my basement. It’s their NAS model, which is attached to my home computer via gigabit ethernet, not Firewire or USB. I’ve had a few months to use it now (or has it been more than that? I can’t quite remember). Let me make a few points:

  1. The plug-and-play nature of the Drobo is fantastic. Just plug in your drives, install the software and go.
  2. That you can use different size disks is also great. You can plug in SSDs, spinning metal, large, small, etc.
  3. The hardware seems rocks solid. It only goes down when power goes down. Any other CIFS/SMB/Linux devices never fail to connect. The lights on the front and the industrial design in general is really pleasing.

That’s the good. Now for the bad:

  1. The Drobo is slooooow. The read-write (especially with redundancy) is painfully, horribly slow. I understand that there’s some overhead, especially when dealing with discs of different types and sizes, but I’ve literally never used a RAID so slow. And I’ve used a lot of RAIDs. Besides, I have 8 of the same HD inside mine.
  2. The software blows. Absolutely ridiculous. It takes a massive amount of time to load on my relatively modern iron, and the window itself seems mired in molasses. The network drive connector does not seem to be able to connect half the time (even when the Drobo is detected and all okay), and every action performed on the Drobo takes forever. Polished-looking but absolutely horribly performing software.

Now at work (having learned from my home life), we purchased a Buffalo TeraStation. Pros:

  1. Comes with the HDDs pre-installed. You don’t have to worry about different sized drives and whatnot when the HDDs are pre-installed.
  2. Is blazingly fast. This is also a NAS on gigabit ethernet, nothing fancy, but the read/writes are insane on this thing.
  3. Much more configurable. For instance I have mine set up as a RAID 1+0. It has access restrictions, user accounts, all that jazz.
  4. Cheaper than a Drobo, once you consider that you’re getting the drives with the enclosure.

Now for some cons:

  1. Much more configurable. I can imagine a beginner absolutely glazing over at some of the functionality.
  2. Not particularly attractive. No nice green lights. Industrial design from the grey-printer phase of the 80s.
  3. The software blows. I mean, if you think Drobo’s management software is bad, wait until you see Buffalo’s. Again, the software matches their functional aesthetic without actually functioning. Some user studies would help here. I honestly have no idea what half the software is supposed to do. Also, the management console opens in a browser, so why have the management software at all?

That said, I’d buy the TeraStation over the Drobo in a heartbeat for home use. It’s a much better solution, much faster, and frankly it doesn’t matter how it looks when it’s sitting in my basement.

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